Hello, followers of all ages and none (timeless entities welcome)!
It’s Tuesday and your internal calendar has probably adjusted to our schedule enough by now that you don’t need me to tell you it’s time for another Fun Etymology!
This week’s word is one of my favourites: “museum”!
Museums are temples. Temples to knowledge, to curiosity, to discovery. There are no bad museums. Even small or impossibly niche museums are beautiful and important, yes, even the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, or the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum.
All knowledge is precious, and none deserves to be lost.
Which is why it’s sad to see so many museums around the world close or be forced to sell part of their collections because money more readily flows towards “important” stuff such as making weapons or paying politicians.
None understood the sacredness of museums better than the Ancient Greeks, from whom the word actually comes to us. The word “museum” comes from the Ancient Greek “mouseion”, which indicated a school, an exhibition or a place of learning, but, most importantly, a temple to the Muses, from whose name the word actually stems.
The Muses were the ancient Greek goddesses of art and science, daughters of Zeus and the goddess Mnemosyne. Their name comes from the PIE root *men- “to think”.
Traditionally, there are nine of them: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Euterpe (music and song), Erato (love poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (hymns and agriculture), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy).
So, next time you go to a museum, remember to treat it like the sacred space it is, and soak in the decades of learning and curiosity that went into its making.
It’s one of the best things we humans have.